Armando Iannucci, writer-director of The Personal History of David Copperfield, has explained his decision to cast Dev Patel in the iconic title role.
Iannucci, who’s also known for creating TV’s Veep and The Thick of It, took a “colorblind” approach to casting his movie based on Charles Dickens‘ novel set in the overwhelmingly white environment of Victorian England. Patel, a British actor of Indian heritage, leads an all-star cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw, and Luther actress Nikki Amuka-Bird.
“It just felt like, why are we not doing this?” he told The Guardian. “It’s when I thought of Dev as David. He said: ‘Do I have an Indian father?’ No. Although it’s set in 1840. For the people in the film it’s the present day. And it’s an exciting present.”
“It wasn’t a conscious reaction to Brexit, but the conversation has gone very insular in terms of what Britain is and what it doesn’t want to be,” Iannucci continued. “I wanted to celebrate what Britain actually is, and it’s much more of a carefree, enjoyable, humorous kind of zesty, energetic place.”
Patel, who won a BAFTA award and earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Lion, has also spoken about the movie’s diverse casting. “I totally missed this literary classic growing up. It didn’t appeal to me,” he told the Press Association recently. “And what Armando has done with the casting and the world, he has given it a buoyancy and an accessibility to kids like myself. It really is representative of a modern Britain – the one that I grew up in.”
The Personal History of David Copperfield opens in the U.K. on January 20 and then in the U.S. on May 8. Watch the trailer below – and in the meantime, check out our round-up of our favorite Dev Patel roles to date.
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